Does a New Turbocharger Need Running In?


Installing a turbocharger needs to follow a strict procedure to minimize issues that could cause problems during the installation process or just after finishing the installation.

Leading reason the installation of a turbocharger fails at start-up

When there’s a failure at initial start-up, the turbocharger is usually blamed. But when an initial failure occurs, it’s probably due to erroneous installation processes. This begs the question does a new turbo need running in?

Let’s unpack.

This could be caused by alien matter making its way into the compressor during the initial start-up. Another could be because particles were left loose during the removal of the old turbocharger. Or it could be because these particles land and get stuck on the pipes or air filters at the start-up.

It could be that the unit was not pre-primed accurately with oil while installing. Because of this, the bearing could fail.

The worst that could happen is complete direct failure that could cause shaft breakage because of one or all the issues mentioned above. In addition, it could also be the failure of a bearing due to oil starvation, or the ingress of foreign matter. It could also be the nut holding the impeller on, gets loose. The only reason this happens is when the shaft comes to a total halt during high speed. During this eventuality, the nut is torqued-on with an opposing thread to rotation.

Secondary reasons why the installation of a turbocharger fails at start-up

Another matter linked to turbocharger installation is gasket leaks. These leaks expel the wrong type of pressure for the turbo to operate correctly, particularly for creating the right boost. A gasket leak will usually cause a whining noise that has a high pitch. This high-pitched noise may continue to get louder with increased engine revs.

Alternatively, a faulty air flow sensor can develop unconventional problems, just like having a clogged EGR valve. In this regard, the airflow sensor can be replaced or cleaned (at the very least).

Following this process comes highly recommended, especially with the installation of a new turbo. During initial start-up, it’s important to allow your engine to be idle for 5 minutes. This will permit the oil to circulate and burn off any smoke that may make an appearance because of assembly lubrication heating and dissipating.

In addition to this, a short ‘run-in’ period is also recommended where the car is operated at lower boosts and revs. This will grant an allowance for “manufacturing tolerances” to make adjustments in the running environment.

The details mentioned above are the most usual faults, which could happen just after being installed. In reality, they are an issue that stems from an installation problem, not necessarily linked to a manufacturing shortcoming.

Turbine housing rotation / compressor / alignment

In some instances, while a turbocharger installation is underway, there could be small disparities visible in the arrangement of each vehicle. Therefore, to suit each specific application, it becomes important to rotate either the outlet (turbine) or inlet (compressor) housing. Or both, in the event where the cartridge angle is adapted.

This is standard procedure during the installation time, across all turbocharger service providers. The process entails loosening a few bolts, a large split-ring, or a v-band slightly (depending on whether the turbo unit type was adjusted). Once the loosening of the housing is done, re-tension of the bolts needs to be carried out in an opposite diagonal way and not following a circular sequence. Following this process can create a balanced tension in housing. Not making an even tension could cause a core distortion to happen at high temperatures.

Moving the housings, using the methods mentioned above, could cause a shift in the way the actuator is positioned. Moving the housings is only applicable if the exterior rod vacuum (pneumatic) actuator is there (especially on most non-variable vane turbos). In most cases, there exists a provision in housing mounts permit for working the actuator. When doing this, it’s important to position the rod to keep an angle as close to perpendicular to the actuator diaphragm housing as much as you can. Because if the angle is too big, the actuator may not actuate its full range of movement.

Standard turbocharge installation tips ‘Best Practice’

  1. Change the oil filter and engine oil to the car manufacturer’s specifications or something better if you can.
  2. Check the case and air filter to ensure it does not have debris, clean it and, if needed, replace the air filter.
  3. Include a brand-new feed line or at least include an ultrasonically cleaned one.
  4. Flush and clean the complete oil system, this includes cleaning oil pick up and dropping out the sump, cleaning up the oil scavenge pump in the place it’s been fitted, tested, and cleaned. Double-check that the oil valves were fitted correctly and tested for the right “cracking pressure” to make sure that it has been cleaned or replaced where needed.
  5. Clean the sump ventilation/engine crankcase ventilation breather system to make certain that there are no blockages because this could cause too much pressure in the crankcase. This includes cleaning the breather hoses and filters or making sure they are replaced if needed. Excessive pressure within the engine block may result in oil leaks from the turbocharger cartridge. When this happens, the high pressure will propel/push the turbo seals around. And make its way into the intercooler or engine or inside the exhaust system, resulting in too much smoke or a loss of engine oil.

To save yourself money, time, and frustration, it’s important to pay attention to the details mentioned above.

Usually, when a malfunction occurs, the blame is placed on the turbocharger straight away. This assumption is often done without a proper diagnosis from a professional turbo rebuilding shop. Not diagnosing the problem can cost you a lot of money and frustration. You can certainly avoid this by doing a systematic trouble-shoot.


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